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King Felix And Mariners Try To Conquer White Sox

(Sports Network) - A subpar road trip has tightened things atop the American League Central for the first-place Chicago White Sox. A return home against a favorable opponent could help the club get back on track.

Chicago seeks a fifth consecutive victory at home over Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners in tonight's opener of a four-game set at U.S. Cellular Field.

The White Sox dropped a 6-4 decision to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday to wrap a 10-game, three-city road trip just 4-6. They lost three of four to Minnesota to begin the swing, then took two of three versus the Mariners prior to losing the rubber match to Oakland on Sunday.

Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez each had two hits and an RBI in the loss, but starter Daniel Hudson gave up five runs on six hits and four walks over five innings to suffer the defeat.

"I thought we would have played a little bit better," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "It was a long road trip. Hopefully when we get home we get better."

Chicago's lead over second-place Minnesota fell to just one game, while third- place Detroit is two games off the pace.

The White Sox had won five in a row over the Mariners before losing the finale of their most recent meeting last Wednesday. They swept a three-game set at home over Seattle from April 23-25 and have won eight of the last nine at U.S. Cellular Field in the series.

Hernandez started Wednesday's game for the Mariners, but did not factor into the decision of his team's 2-1 victory in 11 innings despite eight scoreless innings of two-hit ball. The 24-year-old didn't walk a batter and struck out eight while pitching at least eight innings for the seventh time in eight starts.

"Felix did everything he could and everything we asked of him," said Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu.

The right-hander is 2-2 with a 3.16 earned run average in his career versus the White Sox and 7-6 with a 2.75 ERA overall this season.

Chicago will counter Hernandez with John Danks, who will try to record a fourth consecutive winning start this evening. The left-hander extended his personal run last Tuesday versus Seattle, hurling 7 2/3 scoreless innings while working around two hits and four walks and striking out eight.

"It was good. I felt good," said Danks, who improved to 3-4 with a 3.83 ERA in his career versus the Mariners. "It was a good game. We scored some runs and as a staff were able to shut them out."

Danks, 25, won for the sixth time in his last eight starts and is 10-7 with a 3.37 ERA on the season. He'll try to prevent the Mariners from recording their first three-game winning streak since a season-best run of six consecutive victories from June 16-23.

After hitting a two-run homer in Saturday's victory over Boston, Michael Saunders' helped Seattle earn a split of the four-game set with a go-ahead two-run single in the eighth inning of Sunday's 4-2 triumph. Saunders' hit was one of six straight in the inning for the M's.

"These things add up over time and give him a belief system that he can play," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said of Saunders. "The more time he can play the better he is going to be. He's having good quality at bats."

Casey Kotchman added three hits and scored a run while pinch-hitter Milton Bradley provided a run-scoring bunt single in the 2,500th victory of Seattle's franchise history.

The milestone win, though, was just the Marines' sixth in their last 22 games overall.